Stur­geon refers her­self to watch­dog in Sal­mond case

●First Min­is­ter says pub­lic need to be as­sured that she acted ap­pro­pri­ately

The Scotsman - - Front Page - By PARIS GOURT­SOY­AN­NIS

Ni­cola Stur­geon has re­ferred her­self to the watch­dog that po­lices the min­is­te­rial code over her han­dling of the gov­ern­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment by Alex Sal­mond.

The First Min­is­ter is un­der pres­sure over a se­ries of meet­ings and tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions with Mr Sal­mond while the claims, which he de­nies, were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment lost a le­gal chal­lenge over its han­dling of the mat­ter af­ter it emerged that a civil ser­vant in charge of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion had prior con­tact with the two women who lodged the com­plaints. The case has cost the tax­payer £500,000.

The al­le­ga­tions from two women re­main un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the po­lice, who have spo­ken to staff at Bute House.

“It is in the in­ter­ests of the women who have com­plained that the on­go­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions are al­lowed to con­tinue with­out any risk of prej­u­dice,” Ms Stur­geon said in a state­ment. “That must be the pri­or­ity for every­one.

“Ques­tions have been raised about my meet­ings and tele­phone calls with Alex Sal­mond dur­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the

“I have acted ap­pro­pri­ately and in good faith through­out, and in com­pli­ance with the Min­is­te­rial Code at all times”

NI­COLA STUR­GEON First Min­is­ter

com­plaints which were made. I have acted ap­pro­pri­ately and in good faith through­out, and in com­pli­ance with the Min­is­te­rial Code at all times.

“How­ever, I have re­flected care­fully and un­der­stand that it is also im­por­tant for Par­lia­ment and the wider pub­lic to be as­sured of that.”

The in­de­pen­dent panel, which con­sists of for­mer Lord Ad­vo­cate Dame Elish An­gi­olini and the for­mer Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions in Ire­land, James Hamil­ton, will be con­sulted on the re­mit of their in­quiry into the First Min­is­ter’s ac­tions.

Un­der the min­is­te­rial code, all meet­ings re­lat­ing to gov­ern­ment busi­ness must be set up by civil ser­vants and of­fi­cially recorded.

Ms Stur­geon added: “The fact re­mains that at the cen­tre of this is­sue are two women whose com­plaints could not be swept un­der the car­pet.”

Op­po­si­tion par­ties are keep­ing up pres­sure for a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into the gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the com­plaints.

“To be clear, there is no rea­son why such an in­quiry need im­pact on the sep­a­rate po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Mr Sal­mond,” Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive in­terim leader Jack­son Car­law said. “And any at­tempt by the SNP to use that sep­a­rate in­quiry to evade le­git­i­mate ques­tions would be quite wrong,”

Mr Car­law added: “Ni­cola Stur­geon’s han­dling of this mat­ter over the last week has been ab­so­lutely abysmal.

“It strongly sug­gests that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment is try­ing to hide the facts in order to save the First Min­is­ter’s skin and to­day’s state­ment only adds to that im­pres­sion.

“It is time for the First Min­is­ter to stop dodg­ing and ac­cept that find­ing ex­cuses to avoid the many wider and im­por­tant ques­tions will not wash. It’s time to front up.”

Scot­tish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Trans­parency is now ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial in order for the pub­lic to have con­fi­dence in the First Min­is­ter and the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

“That is why we should also see a full, pub­lic par­lia­men­tary in­quiry in to what ex­actly has hap­pened – and I look for­ward to work­ing con­struc­tively with mem­bers from other par­ties this week in order to se­cure that.

“It is also now es­sen­tial that the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment is given the power to fully re­view the out­come of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Ni­cola Stur­geon has bro­ken the Min­is­te­rial Code.”

Mr Leonard added: “At the cen­tre of all of this are two coura­geous women who put their faith in a sys­tem that has badly let them down, and we must never lose sight of that, by safe­guard­ing the duty of care to them and their ac­cess to jus­tice. We must re­store trust and con­fi­dence in the sys­tem.”

Mean­while, it has emerged that a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion is un­der­way over the leak of de­tails about the al­le­ga­tions to a tabloid news­pa­per. The In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice con­firmed that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment is at the cen­tre of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble breaches of the Data Pro­tec­tion Act.

0 Ni­cola Stur­geon held meet­ings with Alex Sal­mond while sex­ual ha­rass­ment claims, which he de­nies, were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated

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